Top 10 SEC football games to watch in 2010: No. 6 is Alabama at Arkansas

July 15, 2010 

The three-day bonanza that is SEC Football Media Days begins in Hoover, Ala., on July 21, ending the summer drought of college football news.

In the 10 days leading up to the event, the Ledger-Enquirer is counting down the top 10 SEC games to watch in 2010.

Date: Sept. 25

Where: Donald. W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.

Last meeting: Arkansas’ high-powered offense was no match for Alabama’s formidable defense in the Tide’s 35-7 victory in Tuscaloosa. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy outplayed Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Mallett threw for 160 yards and an interception, one of his worst games of the year.

Recent history: Since hiring Nick Saban, Alabama is 3-0 against Arkansas. Bobby Petrino hasn’t done well at all in two tries against the Crimson Tide, getting out-scored 84-21.

What’s at stake: Alabama’s revamped defense will get a stiff test early in the season. The Crimson Tide lost 10 starters from a defense that ranked No. 2 nationally last year. Sure, Saban’s recruiting efforts have set up the Tide for the long run, but Mallett and the Razorbacks will be a tough way for the new group of players to get used to their new, more prominent roles.

Subplots: Although Alabama lost a ton on defense, it returns eight offensive starters, including McElroy, wide receiver Julio Jones, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and his super sophomore backup Trent Richardson. They’ll be licking their chops to face an Arkansas group that ranked 89th nationally and last in the SEC in total defense last year. The question at Arkansas is what kind of step forward will the Hogs make in Year 3 under Petrino, who went from five wins his first season to eight last year. The Razorbacks are a popular pick to finish second in the SEC West, thanks to Mallett, who could establish himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate if he continues what he’s been doing and Arkansas wins some big games. An upset against the defending national champs early in the season certainly would put him on the national radar.

— Andy Bitter

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